A significant milestone start is in the making for Rodney Childers, crew chief for Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang team in the NASCAR Cup Series. By participating in this weekend’s inaugural EchoPark Texas Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas, Childers will call his 550th Cup career race as a crew chief.
A native from Mooresville, North Carolina, Childers’ motorsports career started as a driver, where he competed in the World Karting Association at age 12 before going on to compete in the Late Model Stock Car division, the NASCAR Slim Jim All Pro Series and the Hooters Pro Cup Series. He made his lone NASCAR national touring series start at South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach Speedway in the Xfinity Series in June 2000, where he drove for Jay Robinson Racing.
Five years later, Childers, who retired from driving and became a mechanic and car chief for Penske-Jasper Racing, made his debut as a NASCAR Cup Series crew chief at Michigan International Speedway in June, where he worked with Scott Riggs and the No. 10 MB2/MBV Motorsports team. Paired together for the final 22 Cup events of the season, Childers and Riggs achieved a pole, a season-best runner-up result at Michigan in August and a 34th-place result in the final standings.
Childers remained with Riggs for the 2006 season as both joined Evernham Motorsports. Despite failing to qualify for the Daytona 500, Childers and Riggs managed to capture two poles, a top-five result and eight top-10 results before concluding the season in 20th place in the final standings. They also won the NEXTEL Open at Charlotte’s Lowe’s Motor Speedway in May that allowed them to compete in the All-Star Race.
In 2007, Childers spent the majority of the season as Riggs’ crew chief, where their best result of the season was eighth place at Martinsville Speedway in April. After 26 races with Riggs, Childers was Elliott Sadler’s crew chief at Texas Motor Speedway in November before he was paired with Patrick Carpentier for the final two races of the season.
Childers remained at Evernham Motorsports, renamed to Gillett Evernham Motorsports, for the 2008 season as he was named a full-time crew chief for Sadler and the No. 19 Dodge team. Working with Sadler in all but one of 36 races during the season, Childers led the No. 19 team to two top-five results, eight top-10 results and a 24th-place result in the final standings. By then, he surpassed 100 Cup career races as a crew chief.
In 2009, Childers joined Michael Waltrip Racing and became crew chief for David Reutimann and MWR’s No. 00 Toyota Camry. Twelve races into the season, Childers, along with Reutimann and MWR, won for the first time in Cup competition in the rain-shortened Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte in May following a strategic call to remain on the track on old tires before the race was halted and deemed official on Lap 227 of 400. Childers and Reutimann went on to earn two poles, five top-five results, 10 top-10 results and a 16th-place result in the final standings.
Childers remained at MWR and as Reutimann’s crew chief in 2010, where Reutimann started the season by finishing in fifth place in the Daytona 500. Their biggest moment of the season occurred at Chicagoland Speedway in July, where Reutimann held off Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon to claim his second Cup career victory following 400 miles of racing. Childers and Reutimann went on to earn six top-five results and nine top-10 results before capping off the season in 18th place in the final standings.
Coming off two strong seasons, Childers and Reutimann struggled in 2011, where they went winless and earned a pole, one top-five result, two top-10 results and a 28th-place result in the final standings. In addition, Childers was suspended for the final four races of the season due to rule infractions during pre-race inspection at Talladega Superspeedway in October, pinpointing an unapproved, modified windshield on Reutimann’s car. Despite the four-race suspension, Childers surpassed 200 races as a crew chief.
For the 2012 Cup season, Childers, who remained at MWR, was named crew chief for the No. 55 Toyota Camry team driven between NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin, Brian Vickers and Michael Waltrip while Reutimann was released from the team. Between three competitors, Childers led the No. 55 Toyota team to four poles, seven top-five results and 16 top-10 results.
Childers remained as crew chief for MWR’s No. 55 Toyota team at the start of the 2013 season, with Martin, Vickers and Waltrip sharing driving responsibilities. At New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July, Childers returned to Victory Lane in the Cup circuit when Vickers won following a late pass on Tony Stewart and a two-lap shootout to the finish.
A month after winning at New Hampshire, Childers was named crew chief for veteran Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet SS team for the 2014 Cup season. Childers participated in three additional Cup races with MWR following the announcement before being replaced. Overall, Childers achieved a win, a pole, five top-five results and nine top-10 results in 26 races with Martin, Vickers and Waltrip combined.
With Childers at SHR, it took two races for him and Harvick to win for the first time as Harvick recorded a dominating victory at Phoenix Raceway in March. They went on to capture the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in April. Along with the two victories, Childers, Harvick and the No. 4 team recorded 11 additional top-10 results throughout the 26-race regular-season stretch before entering the Playoffs as a potential championship favorite. After winning at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October and at Phoenix in November, Childers and Harvick made it all the way to the Championship Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November as one of four driver/crew chief combos to contend for the 2014 Cup title. During the finale at Homestead, Harvick utilized four fresh tires to march his way to the front in the final laps and hold off veteran Ryan Newman to win the race and the 2014 championship, thus giving Childers his first Cup championship, the first for Harvick as a driver and Stewart-Haas Racing its second title. Overall, Childers and Harvick earned five victories, eight poles, 14 top-five results, 20 top-10 results and 2,137 laps led en route to the championship. In addition, he surpassed 300 races as a crew chief.
Returning as the reigning champion for the 2015 Cup season, Childers and Harvick won three races (Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Phoenix in March, and Dover International Speedway in October) and went on to record a pole, 23 top-five results, 28 top-10 results, 2,294 laps led and an average result of 8.7. Despite returning to the Championship Round at Homestead as a title contender, they ended up as the championship runner-up on the track and in the final standings behind veteran driver Kyle Busch and rookie crew chief Adam Stevens.
In 2016, Childers and Harvick won four races (Phoenix in March, Bristol Motor Speedway in August, New Hampshire Motor Speedway in September and Kansas Speedway in October). They also earned two poles, 16 top-five results and 26 top-10 results despite Childers being suspended for Pocono Raceway in August due to lug nut violations stemming from the previous race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. While they made the Playoffs, they were eliminated from title contention following the Round of 8 and settled in eighth place in the final standings.
Childers remained as Harvick’s crew chief for the 2017 Cup season as SHR swapped manufacturers from Chevrolet to Ford. Together, they won twice during the season (Sonoma Raceway in June and Texas Motor Speedway in November). They also earned four poles, 14 top-five results and 23 top-10 results despite Childers being suspended for Martinsville Speedway in March due to a post-race infraction for an unapproved track bar assembly on Harvick’s car stemming from Phoenix. Compared to the 2016 season, Childers and Harvick returned to the Championship Round at Homestead in November. They, however, settled in third place in the final standings. By then, Childers surpassed 400 races as a Cup crew chief.
The 2018 Cup season was a career year for both Childers and Harvick as they achieved eight victories (Atlanta Motor Speedway in February, Las Vegas and Phoenix in March, Dover and Kansas in May, New Hampshire in July, Michigan International Speedway in August and Texas in November) and the All-Star Race at Charlotte in May. They also earned three poles, 21 top-five results and 27 top-10 results. Following their victory at Texas in November, however, Childers was suspended from the final two Cup races of the season due to modifying the spoiler on Harvick’s race-winning car and Harvick was stripped his winning benefit of automatically transferring to the Championship Round at Homestead. With Childers absent, veteran Tony Gibson served as an interim crew chief for Harvick, who was able to make the Championship Round before settling in third place in the final standings.
A month prior to the 2019 season’s conclusion, Childers, who reassumed his crew chief responsibilities, inked a multi-year contract extension to remain at SHR and as Harvick’s crew chief. Working together throughout the entire 36-race schedule, Childers and Harvick claimed four victories (New Hampshire in July, Michigan in August, Indianapolis in September and Texas in November). They also earned six poles, 15 top-five results and 26 top-10 results. Making it all the way to the Championship Round at Homestead, they settled in third place in the final standings, which marked the third consecutive third-place result for Harvick and his fifth appearance in the Championship Round as a title contender in the last six seasons. By then, Childers reached 500 starts as a crew chief.
In 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Childers and Harvick won for the first time in the season at Darlington in May. They went on to win at Atlanta in early June, Pocono Raceway in late June, Indianapolis in early July, a pair of Michigan doubleheaders in early August and at Dover in late August before entering the Playoffs as a title favorite. Childers and Harvick advanced to the Round of 12 following victories at Darlington and Bristol in September during the Round of 16. After transferring to the Round of 8, they recorded results of second, 16th and 17th throughout the third round, which were not enough for Harvick to transfer to the Championship Round. With hopes of a second title dashed, Childers and Harvick concluded a strong season in fifth place in the final standings. Overall, they achieved a career-best nine victories, 20 top-five results, 27 top-10 results and a career-best average result of 7.3.
Through the first 13 Cup events of this season, Childers and Harvick have recorded four top-five results and 10 top-10 results. With both searching for their first victory of the season, they are ranked in eighth place in the regular-season standings.
Through 549 previous Cup appearances, Childers has achieved a championship, 38 career victories, 34 poles, 155 top-five results and 251 top-10 results while working with eight different competitors in 17 seasons.
Childers is scheduled to call his 550th Cup career race at the Circuit of the Americas on Sunday, May 23, at 2:30 p.m. ET on FS1.